Kathmandu: Climbers at the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, will now be able to make video calls and surf the Internet on their mobile phones, a Nepalese telecom group claims.
Ncell, a subsidiary of Swedish phone giant TeliaSonera, said on Thursday it had set up a high-speed third-generation (3G) phone base station at an altitude of 5,200 meters (17,000 feet) near Gorakshep village in the Everest region.
“Today we made the (world’s) highest video call from Mount Everest base camp successfully. The coverage of the network will reach up to the peak of the Everest,” Ncell Nepal chief Pasi Koistinen told reporters in Kathmandu.
The installation will also help tens of thousands of tourists and trekkers who visit the world’s highest mountain every year.
Climbers who reached its 8,848-metre peak previously depended on expensive and erratic satellite phone coverage and a voice-only network set up by China Mobile in 2007 on the Chinese side of the mountain.
“This is a great milestone for mobile communications as the 3G high speed internet will bring faster, more affordable telecommunication services from the world’s tallest mountain,” said Lars Nyberg, chief executive of TeliaSonera, which owns 80% of Ncell.
The 3G services will be fast enough to make video calls and use the Internet, said the company, which also claims the world’s lowest 3G base at 1,400 meters (4,595 feet) below sea level in a mine in Europe.
Despite the installation in Everest, telecom services cover less than one-third of the 28 million people of Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world.
TeliaSonera said it planned to invest $100 million in the next year to ensure that mobile coverage increases to more than 90 percent of the Himalayan nation’s population.
The 3G network on Everest puts TeliaSonera ahead of state-controlled Nepal Telecom, Indian-owned United Telecom and China Mobile.
Around 3,000 people have climbed to the Everest summit since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to conquer the peak in 1953.